Senator Seeks Support for Tax Initiative in Southern Colorado

By: Kendra Potter
By: Kendra Potter
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Higher taxes for better schools; it’s a decision one lawmaker is hoping all Coloradoans will make come November.

State Senator Rollie Heath (D) Boulder, is heading up a ballot initiative designed to put money back into education.

Senator Heath was in Pueblo Friday gaining support and gathering signatures for his “Bright Colorado” ballot initiative that would directly benefit schools.

The initiative would temporarily restore state income and sales taxes to their 1999 levels. The move would raise $500 million each year for five yeas putting an estimated $3 billion back into Colorado education.

“Will hopefully keep schools open, keep teachers on the job, keep librarians in place, allow for all the extra curricular activities, provide computers for kids. We’ve taken out over 500 million dollars the last two years, this would help replace that,” said Senator Heath.

But not everyone plans on putting their name on that list. Some don’t like the idea of raising taxes.

"I feel like this is a bad time to raise taxes; I think they need to take a deeper look at the fat, and the bureaucratic end of our school system,” said Jamey Fine.

State and school officials plus community members in Pueblo rallied Friday to show their support.

“It’s about education and jobs and I think that this is really a jobs and economic initiative. We need to be able to fund our education so that we can actually have an educated workforce,” said Democratic Pueblo State Senator Angela Giron.

Melanie Bravo with the Boys and Girls Club of Pueblo County said she is committed to getting more signatures. She printed off a petition and will travel around the community asking people to sign it.

“I believe that we need to invest in our kids and that starts with education. And we can’t continue to see these deep cuts happen and not expect our kids not to be able to perform, our teachers not to be able to perform at their best,” said Bravo.

Senator Heath says that jobs and education go hand in hand.

“I know that you don’t have good jobs and don’t’ have really good economic development without an educated workforce and without educated kids, said Senator Heath. He adds, “You can’t separate education from jobs, from economic development, and we need help and we need to educate our kids.”

This year $250 million was cut from Colorado Education. Pueblo City Schools lost 7.2 million. D70 even went to a four day school week.

“We’ve had a freeze now like many school districts across the state for a few years now and everybody’s prices are going up and our families need some relief from that as well as our students need books, and quality teachers,” said Stephanie Garcia, School Board President for Pueblo City Schools.

The Senator maintains it’s a reasonable and responsive way to deal with huge cuts in education. He says

the income tax rate would go from 4.63 percent back to 5 percent and that sales tax would go from 2.9 percent back to 3 percent. He says for a family making $55,000 a year it would be approximately an extra $163 per year.

Heath says they are halfway to reaching their goal of 125,000 signatures. As of Thursday, they had 67,000. They only need 86,000 to get Initiative 25 on the ballot in November. If it’s passed in November, it will go into effect January 1, 2012.

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